The existence of Surat city dates back to the years of Mahabharat i.e. about year 3,000 B.C. It is said that Lord Krishna stopped with his cows on his transition from Mathura to Dwarka city and the images of the cow's foot prints are still visible to the devotees at a place popularly called "Gai Pagli" (Foot steps of cows)..
In old Sanskrit scriptures, reference of "" is prominent. This area comprised of the entire South Gujarat belt. Western Chalukyas conquered Lata Pradesh in 610 AD and thereafter Hindu domain continued upto 12th century, when Kutb-ud-din, the general of Muhammad Shahb-ud-din Ghori penetrated upto Rander town.
A trading city on the western shore near Gujarat
Sir T. Herbert (1626) identified Surat with Muziris of Ptolemy and Ogilby. More lately, Surat has been supposed to be Hiouan Thsang's (625-640) "Sow-ra-ta", a trading city on the western shore near Gujarat. But according to Reinaud, this is not Surat on the river Tapi, but Sorath or Kathiawar and this view is now generally received by all.
Persian and Arab writers do not speak of Surat till after 12th century. As Abbe Reynal says, "at the beginning of 13th century, Surat was nothing more than a mean hamlet." Learned Brahmins called city of Surat as Suryapur (say around 15th/16th century) when Surat was already a city of great trade. Modern Surat is supposed to be built on the site of old Hindu town of Suryapur. Sir Monies Williams suggests that the old name of the town was "Suraj" (Sanskrit Surya)- city of sun. A Muhammadan ruler wishing to change its Hindu into one more significant Muslim domination, converted "Suraj" into "Surat" (a chapter in Kuran).
Learned Brahmins called city of Surat as Suryapur
Another story about naming of the town reveals that the Tapi river at surat was used as one of the major ports for exports and also for Muslim pilgrimage (Haj) to Mecca. In Farsi/Persian languages, this was recognised as "Bunder-e-Khubsurat",meaning a beautiful port. The word "SURAT" seems to have derived from this popular phraseology.
Long before Surat came into prominence, Rander was the principal commercial centre, south of Broach. It was ancient town where Arabs and Kafa came and settled in 11th/12th century. They over powered Jain population and became rulers. Trading with Malacca, China, Sumatra, etc., spices, silk, musk and porcelain was the major business.
Spices, silk, musk and porcelain was the major business
The port of Surat enjoyed great prosperity
As prosperity of Rander declined in 16th century, on account of raids by Portuguese, Surat began to assume importance. The port of Surat enjoyed great prosperity in 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. With rise of Bombay, it ceased to be a port of importance.
Subsequent to Muhammad Sahab-ud-din Ghori, the next mention of Surat is in 1347 A.D., in connection with the rebellion of Gujarat during the reign of Muhammad Tughlak (1325 to 1351). In 1373 A.D., the emperor Firoz Tughlak(1351 to 1388) is said to have built a fort at Surat to protect the town against Bhils. During 15th century, Muzzafar Shah was governor of Suart.
Hindu trader called Gopi settled in Surat
In about 1496 to 1521, a rich Hindu trader called Gopi settled in Surat and he attracted other rich traders in the city. He built large houses, a garden and a small lake.(Gopipura, Ranichakla, etc.are named after him).Portuguese chronicles describe Mallik Gopi as Governor of Surat.
In 1512, shortly before Barbosu was in Gujarat, Surat is said to have been burnt by the Portuguese. Annoyed by the destruction of Surat, the Ahmedabad king gave order for building of a strong castle.(1546).
Surat is said to have been burnt by the Portuguese
Akbar marched on to Surat
In 1559-60 A.D. Changiz Khan came upto Surat and Portuguese sent him back. In 1572 A.D. Surat fell into the hands of Mirza, then in the rebellion against the emperor Akbar. In January 1573, Akbar marched on to Surat and after a vigorous seige of about six weeks, the fort surrendered. At the time of this conquest, Surat district comprised of 993 towns or villages and yeilded annual tax revenue of Rs.0.4 million.
During Moghul regeime, Surat generally enjoyed peace and rose to the level of one of the first and prosperous cities of India. However, during 49 years of Aurangzeb's reign (1658 to 1707), Surat's prosperity was checked by :(i) Maratha raids, headed by Chatrapati Shivaji (1664 to 1685), (ii) by growing importance of Bombay (1677 to 1707) and (iii) 27 years of increasing disorders by local governors.